The Gramophone review

Gramophone, July 2013


Canadian recording for Glass’s Third and new ‘Hours’ suite
by Pwyll ap Siôn

If the success of a film score lies in its ability to float free from the film’s images and exist instead as ‘pure’ music, then Philip Glass’s soundtrack to The Hours is set to become one of the composer’s most celebrated works. Longtime Glass collaborator Michael Riesman produced a three-movement piano concerto-style suite from the soundtrack soon after the film’s release but it has taken 10 years for the work finally to see the light of day.

Creating three relatively large-scale movements from a substantial number of small, fragmentary film cues can be tricky but Glass’s block-like structures seem custom-built for such a purpose. The first movement sets ‘The Poet Acts’ and ‘Morning Passages’ against one another as if they were competing subjects in a symphonic argument. The movement reaches a dark and uncertain close with musical quotes from ‘Dead Things.’ Glass’s score often draws from a pool of common thematic and harmonic materials, and this allows Riesman to cleverly tie together the opening and closing sections of the suite in the final movement. There’s plenty of drama and intensity here but the music still seems at times to lack visual support.

The other work on this recording is unequivocally purpose-built for the concert hall. Unlike the grand design of Symphonies Nos 2, 7 and 9, Glass’s intimate Symphony No 3 is glorified chamber music at its very best, where each player is treated as a soloist in his own right. There are moments in the second and third movements when the score splits into 19 individual lines. In this absorbing and impressive performance, Anne Manson and the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra bring out Glass’s intricate polyphonic weave with brilliant ease and assurance.